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December jobs report shows signs of sputtering in truck transportation industry 

The December employment report for the truck transportation sector showed an industry that is marking time on employment levels but in which the trends seem to be pointing down. 

Seasonally adjusted employment in the sector in December came in at 1,601,500 jobs. That’s an increase of 2,100 jobs from a revised November figure of 1,599,400 jobs. 

But that November figure in turn was revised downward by 1,900 jobs from when it was first published a month ago. So the end result is that the number of jobs in December on a seasonally adjusted basis was only 200 jobs more than where the data showed employment levels at a month ago.

Additionally, October jobs were adjusted down 1,110 jobs, to 1,598,900. The issue then is the classic half full/half empty conundrum: Truck transportation jobs in December were significantly above November and October, but those latter two months had fewer jobs than originally projected.

The other figure pointing in a downward direction was the not seasonally adjusted data. 

That number showed a sharp decline in jobs, to 1,604,100, down a big 8,000 jobs. While economists generally cite seasonally adjusted data, others have cautioned that the not seasonally adjusted figures should not be ignored.

With revisions to the November and October figures, it puts December’s not seasonally adjusted jobs at 1,604,100, down 11,400 jobs from the revised October number. 

The report was described as “mundane” by one industry observer. Here are a few other takeaways:

  • Warehouse jobs, which have been on a steep decline the last few months, continued to fall but at a slower rate than recently. They came in at 1,725,500 jobs, down 2,700 jobs. But that’s a relatively small decline compared to the October-to-November drop, which after revisions came in at 12,600 jobs. The net impact of the declines is that warehouse employment peaked in June at 1,791,100. The number of jobs is down 3.5% since then, while total employment in the U.S. has risen every month. 
  • Although railroad executives say they are trying to hire, and in some cases are being berated for not hiring enough, rail jobs declined slightly on a seasonally adjusted basis. They were down 100 jobs, to 147,700 jobs. And they’re down 100 jobs from a year ago as well. The figure is down 200 jobs from two years ago. 
  • Hours worked are sliding in the truck transportation sector. After six consecutive months above 40 hours per week, hours worked in November fell to 40.8, the lowest since 40.5 in April. The Producer Price Index for November in truck transportation, which already was released several weeks ago, showed an increase of 1.1% in November, the first increase after five mnths of declines. 
  • There’s been a significant decline in the number of courier jobs the last two months and jobs are up only slightly for the year. The revised figure for October in that sector was 1,108,20 jobs. But the December number came in at 1,090,800 jobs. That puts it only slightly higher than it was a year ago, when December 2021 courier jobs totaled 1,087,500. 

Truck transportation jobs move little in November but trend still upward

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